The Longtailed Widowbird is a grassland species, even occurring up to 2,750m above sea level in the Drakensberg mountains. They feed primarily on seeds, and occasionally insects. Long-tailed Widowbirds live in flocks consisting of 1 or 2 males and several females. At night they roost in reedbeds or long grass.
The male Long-tailed Widowbird only carries the exceptionally long tail (up to 50cm) in the breeding season, displaying it prominently by flying slowly over his patch of grassland. In winter the males have the same drab colouration of the females. The breeding season stretches from October to April in South Africa, and during this time males may mate with up to 5 females. Either sex weave the dome-shaped nests in tall, dense grass in wetlands or along rivers, in which 1-4 eggs are incubated by the female only for two weeks. The chicks leave the nest at just over two weeks old, but are not very strong flyers yet and thus remain dependent on their mother for another two weeks or so. Adults weigh between 25 and 46 grams.
The Long-tailed Widowbird is patchily distributed in pockets of East and Central Africa, with the largest part of the population concentrated in parts of Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa, particularly the Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Free State, North West, Gauteng and the Highveld of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. The IUCN lists it as least concern, describing its populations as common and stable, despite much of its range being intensively farmed.